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March 09, 2011

Writers vs. Road: We win

    Just walked in the door from one of the better work assignments in years.

    The final tally for the odyssey with Tom Sorensen in his Audi (it has the better radio): 773.2 miles in 46 hours, with 54-of-65 passes completed by Cam Newton, and one fork to the head from Abdullah the Butcher.

    Pretty good road trip.

    Road trips, of course, are good by nature. Especially for guys. Women, for instance, fail to hear the lyricism of small-town names like LaGrange, Opelika or Fair Play. They fail to appreciate the architectural perfection of the Peachoid as you're hurtling down Interstate 85 listening to John Lee Hooker. They may not care for the smell of gas on your shoes or the taste of grease and black coffee that fuels a long drive.

    The football they might not mind -- "How was Cam?" my wife asked, since she gets that he's this year's draft poster-boy. 

    Auburn itself was interesting, a charming piece of rural South filled with polite, smart kids who are good with directions. Near the school of engineering, we asked how to get to the old track to park. The kid rattled off four precise turns, with landmarks and street names, and was better than any GPS. When I was in college, I rarely knew where I was going, would have been no help to others.

    Auburn's pro day was interesting, if only to see the reaction of the top teams to Newton. Coaches and GMs flocked to him during Tuesday's stop. Wednesday, many of them will make plans to spend more time with Alabama DT Marcell Dareus (a three-hour side trip which, with better planning, we'd have made).

    But Newton was the star, and carries himself as such.

    Still, he's not a Hall of Famer yet, and the trip kicked off with one of those.

    With Tom in tow, it was natural that I'd finally found a companion eager -- not just willing -- to eat at Abdullah the Butcher's House of Ribs and Chinese Food in Atlanta. Tom's a Ric Flair guy, and when Abdullah found that out, he told Tom to ask Flair why he'd never wrestle him. There was genuine indignance in his voice.

    There was more wrestling talk, a great plate of rib tips, collard greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread and sweet tea (the indigenous food of my people). He asked us if we wanted pictures. Are you kidding me?

    Neither of us are photographers (we may not be writers), but the fact is, he slapped me in a headlock and took a foreign object to my head. As always, the ref was looking the other way.

    Tuesday, everybody was looking in one direction. Wednesday, we headed home, as the rest of the NFL made its way through Alabama -- we were so tempted. Some will go from there to Clemson (but Panthers coach Ron Rivera's hitting Nebraska Thursday to see CB Prince Amukamara).

    The road goes on, except for Tom and I. After all, there are wives and kids and dogs at home who miss us. And after the obligatory share of Atlanta traffic (bad any time of day or night), there was a certain relief pulling into my house.

    Still, there was Abdullah (his friends call him Abe), lemonade at Toomer's Drugs (the trees are hanging in there), and two nights in Newnan, Ga. (hometown of Lewis Grizzard, which I only mention since not enough people have a sense of humor).

    There were also stories told and characters met along the way which we'll write about later, stuff so impossible to believe that you might swear we made up.

    But that's for another day. Today, we're tired. 

    Still, before he pulled out of the driveway, Tom and I agreed.

    We should have gone to Tuscaloosa.

-- Darin Gantt

Posted by Observer Sports on March 9, 2011 at 02:43 PM | Permalink


The Panther's brain trust were there to see Fairley not Newton. Marty Hurney, Don Gregory and the rest of the Carolina Panther scouting department made a huge mistake on Jimmy Clausen, Tony Pike, and Armanti Edwards last year that they are scared shitless of making another colossal mistake this year. Trust me when I say this, "Marty Hurney and Don Gregory will find a way to screw this "number one" overall selection up. They will become the next sequel of "Dumb and Dumber" in NFL Drafting History.

Posted by: Mike | Mar 9, 2011 3:52:36 PM

Mike, take your handbag full of rainbows and come home, PLEEEEEASE!!!

Posted by: Mike's Mate | Mar 9, 2011 4:14:56 PM

where was gary hart when you needed him?

Posted by: joe cool | Mar 9, 2011 4:40:48 PM

thats alot of gaytalk -.-

Posted by: Krueger | Mar 9, 2011 5:59:09 PM

A rookie wage scale is now in place, so they could easily trade down or take a huge risk in drafting Newton.

1. 1st round contracts will be limited to four year deals. The owners backed off an original idea to require first-round picks signing for five years.

2. Players drafted after the first round will be limited to three-year contracts. Players would be restricted free agents in the fourth year. This isn’t much different from the current system, when the majority of picks after the first round wind up with three-year contracts.

It’s hard to evaluate the new system without knowing how much the high first round picks will make. Cole reports the owners’ original offer for the No. 1 overall pick would have been a five-year, $19 million contract. Only $6 million was guaranteed. (For comparison, Sam Bradford got $50 million guaranteed on a six-year deal last year.)

The owners eventually backed off such a drastic reduction, but we don’t know by how much. Eagles president Joe Banner has been involved in the negotiations, according to Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News.

The key concession from the union’s perspective is that first-round picks will hit free agency faster. The good ones will ultimately be rewarded with a big second contract faster than under the old system. (Just think of the leverage Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco would have now after three seasons.)

In the end, ballooning rookie deals was a big problem for the league that had to be corrected.

Now they just have to correct everything else.

Posted by: oh wow | Mar 9, 2011 6:13:11 PM

Abdullah the Butcher vs. Tom Sorenson?
Total dark match if you ask me.
Give me Tully Blanchard vs. Ricky Steamboat any day.
The Newton pick would either propel the organization forward three years or set it back three more. Very risky. I'm intrigued.

Posted by: ASChin | Mar 9, 2011 6:16:47 PM

I think Cam Newton should be our 1st round pick and we should try to trade for Carson Palmer as the starter/mentor for Cam for his rookie year. Trade Clausen for a bag of stale chips, and give Matt Moore the third QB clip board.

Posted by: Major Smart | Mar 10, 2011 12:44:08 AM

What trade value does Clausen have? As much this fanbase threw him under the bus, you won't get nothing for him.

I guess after 1yr without giving time to improve, fans are "giving up" on Clausen. Couldn't imagine what will happend to Newton when he flops in yr 1? Oh I know start clamoring for Luck if they end up with the #1 overall pick again.

Newton is a 2-3yr project. I take my chances on drafting a impact player who is a day 1 starter. Not to sit and learn from impatients fans/owners not giving him enough time to develop.

Posted by: oh wow | Mar 10, 2011 9:10:20 AM

Darrin, you have the embryo of a great Southern novel here. But I am sympathetic with the fact that the CO is too cheap to fly you down there. Or were you just ready to have three days respite from home?

Posted by: Tennessee Williams | Mar 10, 2011 10:11:19 AM

3 years is way to little for a project (or does the restricted part means it in really is 4 years?).

Still the deal might make the pick tradeable, the drafts best run blocking guard and a good DT for the first would upgrade us a lot.

We still need a starting QB, but that is true even if we draft Newton.

Posted by: Thorrez | Mar 10, 2011 10:44:02 AM

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